The Redbird trains were the 1,410 New York City Subway cars of the following types: R26, R28, R29, R33 Main Line (ML), R33 World's Fair (WF), R36 ML, and R36 WF. All were built by the American Car and Foundry Company and the St. Louis Car Company. These cars were painted a deep red to combat graffiti, which had become a major problem in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The deep red color was referred to as Gunn Red or "Broad Street Red" in honor of its originator David L. Gunn, the former SEPTA General Manager who became President of the New York City Transit Authority during this period. Initially entering service in various colors, these cars received the new paint scheme between 1984 and 1989. Sixteen R17s were also given this paint scheme in 1985/86, but were retired by 1988, well before the name "Redbird" caught on. Today, repurposed Redbird cars serve as garbage trains or rider cars on locomotive-hauled work trains, while others have been preserved by various museums.
These cars were built by two different manufacturers.
- American Car and Foundry built the R26 cars in 1959–1960 and the R28 cars in 1960–1961.
- St. Louis Car Company built the R29 cars in 1962, the R33 in 1962–1963, R33 World's Fair single cars in late 1963, and the R36 and R36 World's Fair in 1964.
Retirements and replacements
Most Redbirds were phased out from 2001 to 2003 and replaced by the new R142 and R142A cars. The final trip made by a train consisting of Redbirds was made on November 3, 2003 on the 7. 1,292 Redbirds have been sunk at sea off the coasts of Delaware (Redbird Reef), Georgia, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia as artificial reefs to promote marine life, to serve as a barrier and to enhance recreational scuba diving by Weeks Marine Inc. An episode of CSI: NY titled "The Deep" used these cars as part of the story line, and even featured well-replicated underwater shots of mock ups of the cars. However, the show places them in New York City's East River.
Some Redbirds (R33s, R33WFs, and R36WFs) are used on the Train of Many Colors, which includes numerous historical subway cars in their original livery, all with contrasting colors. These cars are in the museum fleet. R33 9075 is on display at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, Queens. R28 pair 7926-7927 are preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois with trolley poles added for the ability to run on the museum's mainline. R33WF is at the Seashore Trolley Museum, also modified with trolley poles for operation at the site.
Other usage of Redbird name
- Some R27 and the rebuilt R30, R30A BMT/IND cars were often referred as the BMT Redbirds after they were painted Gunn Red during the late 1980s.
- The MBTA Red Line in Boston used the Redbird name starting in the late-1970s when that line's rolling stock was repainted into a largely red scheme. However, that usage of Redbird followed a tradition set with those fleet's prior paint schemes ("Bluebirds" for the 01400s, "Silverbirds" for the 01500s and 01600s).
The Train of Many Colors consists of multiple Redbird cars, some which were repainted into paint schemes the cars wore before the GOH.
Redbird trains for non-passenger service, taken in Junction Boulevard Station in December 2014
- "MTA Transit's Legendary Redbirds Make Final Trip" (Press release). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. November 3, 2003. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- New York Times. "Refloating a Notion About Subways" by Jeremy Pearce. April 28, 2002.
- New York Times. "Growing Pains for a Deep-Sea Home Built of Subway Cars" by Ian Urbina. April 8, 2008.
- Media related to Redbirds at Wikimedia Commons